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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan: Study Highlights RSV Burden on Infants in Nicaragua

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a major cause of lower respiratory tract infections, is behind one of every four deaths from acute illness for children under 2 in Nicaragua, according to a University of Michigan study.

“We knew that Nicaraguan children were getting RSV and experiencing severe illness, but the substantial morbidity and mortality from RSV that we observed in this study really highlights its importance in this population,” said lead author Mr. John Kubale, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. 

For the analysis, researchers expanded an existing study cohort in Managua, Nicaragua, and enrolled 833 healthy newborn babies and followed them for the next couple years, tracking when they got sick and testing for respiratory syncytial and influenza virus. About 35 percent of the children had RSV and roughly 19 percent had RSV with acute lower respiratory symptoms. RSV was associated with 25 percent of deaths from medical causes.

Dr. Aubree Gordon, professor of epidemiology at Michigan Public Health and senior author of the study, said until now quantifying the impact of RSV on infant health has been difficult due to financial and logistics concerns. Most research is done in clinical settings, unlike this study, which looked at infants in a community setting.

“In Nicaragua, children have a consistent immunization program, have higher vaccination rates than in the U.S. and have access to clean water and to health care. Yet there’s been this high rate of infant mortality, so the question is what can we do next,” she said. “Our study suggests that developing an effective RSV vaccine could prevent millions of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths every year.”

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